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Nuclear Weapons

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Our primary objective for the 2008 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee meeting will be to continue to develop the conditions for a successful outcome to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, essentially a strengthened NPT and seeking to make it harder for countries to withdraw from the NPT. The UK will present the preliminary findings of our research into the verification of nuclear disarmament, which the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston has been working on in conjunction with Norwegian defence laboratories and the non-governmental organisation Verification Research, Training and Information Centre. We will also discuss with key states the UK proposals for an enrichment bond and a UN Security Council permanent members' Nuclear Laboratories Conference. In our national statements, we will continue to call for the start of negotiations without preconditions on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and for those states who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Official Visits: Irish President

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): No. The Irish President, Mary McAleese, is a welcome visitor to the UK.

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The noble Lord may wish to note that the president's recent comments, made in reply to a journalist's question and reflecting earlier statements by the Taoiseach, referred specifically to a state visit.


Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: This sentence repeats the guidance given to local authorities in 1995 about decriminalised parking enforcement outside London. It does, however, appear that the sentence has no legal basis and this was not identified in the responses to the consultation on the draft operational guidance. We will amend the guidance and notify those who have already received it.

People Trafficking

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Children and Young Person's Bill, currently before Parliament, contains provisions to extend and strengthen the authority of the role of the independent reviewing officer (IRO), to ensure that the voices of all looked-after children are taken into account by the local authority responsible for planning the care for each looked-after child.

In addition to our proposals for developing the IRO role, the current statutory framework already requires local authorities to ensure that looked-after children are able to have access to independent advocates. Access to advocates should not just be confined to complaints procedures; children should be provided with support from an advocate whenever they wish to make representations about the services they receive.

Furthermore the Bill proposes that wherever it is in the child's interests, each looked-after child should be offered the support of an independent “visitor” who will befriend and advise the child.

The Government believe these arrangements to be satisfactory and do not therefore believe that a new requirement on local authorities to allocate dedicated mentors is necessary, in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children who may have been trafficked.

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Police: Fatalities

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): There is a range of guidance produced by ACPO and/or the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to assist individual forces in responding to incidents involving sudden death including: multiple fatalities in a disaster; single death homicides; and road traffic collisions. These manuals of guidance are held by ACPO and the NPIA. Some, such as the ACPO Road Death Investigation Manual, are in the public domain and available on the ACPO website.

Prisoners: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: A range of sanctions including criminal prosecution are available depending on the circumstances of the case. All prisoners who breach temporary release conditions, on returning to prison, are charged with the offence under Prison Rules, if there is prime facie evidence to support a charge. The prisoner is then adjudicated on by a governor during a disciplinary hearing. If found guilty, the prisoner will be the subject of an adjudication award. Adjudication awards have a maximum of 14 days’ cellular confinement, with loss of association with other prisoners and loss of prison earnings. There are a range of losses of privileges for varying time periods.

Since summer 2002, following a European Court ruling, an adjudicating governor cannot increase a prisoner’s sentence by awarding loss of remission. However, the prisoner’s release date is recalculated and extended by the length of time the prisoner has been unlawfully at large.

Where prisoners have failed to return to prison by the designated date and time the adjudicating governor may decide to deal with the matter internally or can adjourn the hearing and refer the matter to the PSNI for investigation and consideration for prosecution. Section 25 of the Prison Act carries a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment for being unlawfully at large.

The Prison Service updated its memorandum of understanding with the PSNI and PPSNI last autumn so that any prisoner who has absconded for a significant period of time, normally over 7 days, is referred to the authorities to be considered for prosecution. For shorter time periods governors may refer any case for prosecution if they consider the individual circumstances make it appropriate.

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Each individual prisoner’s leave quotas under the pre-release home and resettlement scheme are based upon the length of sentence and continuous custody. If a prisoner breaks continuous custody by remaining out of the prison unlawfully for a full calendar day or more, the prisoner is deemed to have broken continuous custody. As a result the prisoner's entitlement to such leave is recalculated from the day on which he returns to prison, and consequently his home leave quotas will significantly reduce.

In any subsequent application for home or resettlement leave account is taken of any previous leave failures by the Home Leave Board as part of its consideration.


Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government's co-ordinated prostitution strategy recognises that those at risk of, or involved in, street prostitution have a range of complex needs, including housing, drug treatment and other health needs. In areas where prostitution markets exist, local partnerships are responsible for ensuring that adequate services are available to those involved in selling sex.

Ensuring that dedicated work takes place to support routes out of prostitution is part of our Tackling Violence Action Plan, published on 18 February. A decision on how this work will be taken forward will be made early in the 2008-09 financial year.

Public Sector Information

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: As announced in the Budget, the Government will look closely at public sector information held by trading funds to distinguish more clearly what is required by Government for public tasks and ensure that this information is made available as widely as possible for use in downstream markets. In the lead-up to the next spending review the Government will ensure that information collected for public purposes is priced so that the need for access is balanced with ensuring that customers pay a fair contribution to the cost of collecting this information in the long term.

For central government bodies other than trading funds, the clear policy is that raw information should, subject to any statutory provision, be freely available or provided at the marginal cost of dissemination.

In drafting the report Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds, Cambridge University relied on the co-operation of and provision of data from trading funds. Some of the financial data provided was commercially confidential and was therefore not published in the report. This did not alter the overall conclusions of the report.

Railways: Catering

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Catering is a matter for train operators and so does not normally form part of either the franchise specification against which intending operators are invited to bid or the franchise agreement subsequently concluded between the Department for Transport and the successful bidder. Operators are therefore free to make changes to the catering service they offer without having to seek the department's consent.

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Railways: Crossrail

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The only clearance work needed in addition to Crossrail works to achieve W10 gauge throughout the newly electrified sections of the Great Western Main Line would be in relation to a small number of existing arched bridges.

Whether to undertake additional works to these bridges for non-Crossrail purposes is for Network Rail to review as usual for any gauge clearance investment.

Railways: Light Rail

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The benefits of light rail expansion are considered on a case by case basis and will vary according to the specific scheme being considered. The Department for Transport aims to consider all impacts of transport schemes including impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and changes in congestion. The assessment should also be informed by the best available evidence. The recent increase in the price of oil will be considered in the assessment of schemes although the impact of this is likely to be relatively modest.

The methods and information used to assess the impact of a scheme are generally considered state of the art and are regularly reviewed. As part of this process the department is currently reviewing its appraisal techniques as part of the NATA (New Approach to Appraisal) Refresh. Recommendations about improvements to the assessment of schemes will be finalised after public consultation on the NATA Refresh closes on 31 March 2008.

Railways: London to Manchester

Lord Bradley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Our immediate priority is increasing capacity on the rail network. In the period 2009-14, £10 billion will be invested in more trains and more capacity to meet passenger demand for rail travel.

We are also beginning work with the rail industry to develop an understanding of some of the complex rail options we might need to consider in future, including the long-term case for new lines.

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Railways: Rolling Stock

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Proposals to acquire or transfer rolling stock are welcome, provided the train operators concerned are willing to fund them. The Government do, however, need to be sure that appropriate contractual provisions are in place to ensure that services can be maintained in the event of franchise termination. Proposed arrangements of this sort are therefore subject to approval by the Department for Transport.

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